King Shibi was the son of King Ushinara who ruled Bhojanagari, in the north west of India. Shibi was a perfect king, known for his character and all good qualities, especially his generosity. He was unparalleled in his generosity and there were no beggars in his kingdom.
The fame of this quality of his spread far and wide and even upto the other realms and universes. So much so that Indra, the King of the Devas, in Amravati started to feel uncomfortable. One day, he casually commented that Shibi must be giving away wealth since he had too much of it. Pat came a retort from Agni, the God of Fire that Shibi was not donating because he was rich but because he wanted to help others and that generosity was an inborn quality of Shibi.
Indra was more perturbed and surprised that a member of his own clan should be supporting Shibi thus. “It is quite easy to part with material riches” he said, “I want to see if he is above that. Who will come with me?” Agni wanted to prove his point and said, “I will come O King. Let us go just now”.
“Wait,” said Indra, Shibi will surely give us whatever we want if we go in this form. Listen to me. You go in the form of a pigeon and I shall be the eagle chasing you. Go straight to wherever he is and seek asylum from him and request him to save you from my clutches. I will take care of the rest!”
Agni did not know Indra’s plan fully but he had to obey the King’s orders and the next moment, he transformed himself into a pigeon and flew straight into Shibi’s court where the Durbar was going on. Durbar was the daily court where the King would hear the problems of his citizens and give them solutions.
Screeching in panic, the pigeon rushed straight into Shibi’s hands. “Save me, save me O king from the clutches of this eagle” he said almost fainting and the King looked up to see the eagle following menacingly. Shibi took the panting pigeon in his hands and stroking it kindly said, “Do not worry little pigeon, I shall save you”. He then looked up at the eagle which angrily said, “O King, you are saving this pigeon but denying me my meal. I am so hungry. Is this your way of doing justice?”
“Do not worry, Eagle” said Shibi, “I shall immediately arrange food for you from my kitchen”.
“But, I do not eat cooked food. Raw meat is my food. Do you not know this?” said the eagle.
“Okay, I shall arrange for raw meat for you” Shibi replied to which the eagle said, “I do not eat food hunted by others O King and I like the taste of flesh with warm blood, fresh”
The king did not know what to do. He wanted to save the pigeon and at the same time do justice to the eagle. By denying the natural food of the eagle, he knew that he was being unjust and if he did not save the pigeon, then also he would have failed in his duty!!
Suddenly, an idea struck him. Looking at the eagle, he asked, “Would you mind eating my flesh? I shall give my flesh equivalent to the weight of this pigeon” The eagle agreed and a weighing scale was brought to the court. The pigeon sat on one of the plates and King Shibi, much to the horror of the onlookers in his court, with a sharp knife, cut a big portion of his right thigh and placed it on the other scale. The scale did not go down even a millimetre. The king did not mind and cut a portion of his left thigh and placed it on the scale. Again there was no impact. The courtiers and public were overcome with shock and awe but the king was unperturbed and cut flesh from his arms, hip and from all over his body and placed the same on the scale. The scale remained on top as it was in the beginning and the scale on which the pigeon was still down as it had been.
The bleeding king was worried now. Worried not for his bloody state but worried as he might not be able to keep up his word to the pigeon and the eagle. He looked at the eagle and with tears in his eyes said, “I am offering my whole self, O eagle, please take me and leave the pigeon!” Saying thus, he climbed on to the scale, on which the flesh was placed, and suddenly both the pigeon and eagle vanished and to everybody’s utter surprise, Lord Indra and Lord Agni appeared illuminating the whole place with their luminous presence.
Lord Indra was pleased with Shibi’s generosity healed him in a jiffy and all the flesh and blood vanished and cool scented breeze blew spreading the fragrance of a thousand roses. The ever grateful king bowed down to the Gods who blessed him with ever growing prosperity and wealth so that he may continue to practice generosity and thus King Shibi or Shibi Chakravarthy as he is known became a symbol for generosity and charity.